Shtax’héen, water biting itself (Stikine River) is by far the largest fluvial corridor connecting Southeast Alaska with interior. It drains about 19,000
square miles of British Columbia. Next largest watersheds are T’aakú and Aalséix/T’áchán shahéeni (Alsek/Tatshenshini), each about 5,000 sq mi. In many ways, biological and physical, Shtax’héen dominates this province. Of its 2,531 square miles, glaciers cover 410, 16% of total land area.

Northeast upriver to Kuxnuk X’áat’i, set back island (Sergief). Photo by  Alaska Shorezone.

The Stikine’s influence extends far beyond its tideflats. Canadian silt permeates not only Wrangell’s seawater, but sometimes the air itself. During winter low flows, bare sand and silt is exposed in broad belts throughout the Stikine flood plain. When strong down-valley winds pick up the finest grains, a haze of airborne sediment restricts visibility.

For plants, the loess so annoying to human lungs provides a steady renewal of nutrients. Thick loess blanketing the upriver side of Farm Island inhibits conifers, resulting in lush thicket communities. On Kadin Island, more moderate loess deposition nurtures a highly productive spruce forest with devil’s club understory. A Research Natural Area designation protects this island from the logging that almost completely removed the old growth from nearby Vank and Solokof Islands.

Topography and traced glaciers from IfSAR. Place names from the cultural atlas (Thornton & Martin (2012)

Baird, Patterson and LeConte Glaciers—all north of LeConte Bay—are southernmost of the great Alaskan valley glaciers that emerge from icefields and flow down into lowland valleys. From LeConte southward along the mainland, only smaller alpine glaciers are found.

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2000 spring newsletter: River relations

Corridors for fish, wildlife and people Connections between the coastal rainforest and the boreal interior. For millennia, transboundary rivers have…

2000 | Richard Carstensen, Steve Merli | 9 pages